Residents can now submit anonymous, non-emergency tips 24/7 to the Winter Garden Police Department through a new technology crime fighting tool: Winter Garden PD tip411.
Police Chief Steve Graham announced the new app at the Winter Garden City Commission meeting Thursday, Jan. 11.
Winter Garden PD tip411 allows residents to submit anonymous information through three different options.
Residents can download the free Winter Garden PD app from the Apple or Google Play stores and also sign up to receive public safety alerts through the app.
The second option is to submit a tip via text message to the WGPD by texting the keyword “WGPD” and the tip to 847411.
Finally, residents can submit a tip through the WGPD website at wgpd.com or through the city of Winter Garden website at cwgdn.com.
“Being able to report crime tips to police anonymously and conveniently through an app or via text or city website is beneficial to the community while being helpful to police, and in some cases, may prevent crime before it happens,” City Manager Jon C. Williams said.
The technology utilizes a third-party service to protect residents’ identity and contact information, keeping tips anonymous.
The tip411 service is strictly for non-emergency use. For emergencies, always contact 911.
“We still want people to call 911,” Graham said. “If it’s a crime in progress, we need to have the details. 911 is still the primary, but dispatch will still be aware if they’re doing a tip411.”
Graham said WGPD representatives have been having discussions regarding the new tool for a few months.
“It resulted because we have a lot of information that’s out in the neighborhoods in the community that’s not getting to us,” he said. “Basically, we’re not getting the actual intelligence that we could. There are a few possible reasons for that. It could be that in certain neighborhoods they don’t want to be seen talking to the police or they’re afraid of retribution for talking to the police or providing information on a crime. They may not want to be identified as the complaint or a witness, and they may not want to go to court later or testify against or about something that’s going to make them uncomfortable. This provides an outlet where they can be completely anonymous. We can also interact with residents and get more information from them through this service.”
Although most other local organizations do not currently have this operation, Graham said the idea is popular on the West Coast.
In terms of monitoring the information, the department has a few administrative accounts, including one Graham has himself, as well as one owned by Lt. Michael Mason, who will be the main coordinator of the program. Dispatch also has an administrative account.
Graham hopes the community will sign up for the tool’s push notifications, so if the department is looking for something, it can send the information to the people who have subscribed.
“I would hope that by sharing more information we can be more effective and be more responsive,” he said. “We’re pretty good at solving crimes, but this would just make us better.”
Winter Garden resident Zach Waxler heard about the Winter Garden PD app recently and thinks it’s fantastic.
“I created my account within the app, and submitting a tip is very quick and easy,” he said. “It simply asks you for a subject, location and description of what you saw. I feel this is going to help our community engage with our great law-enforcement officers in a much more simplistic way. It is sometimes intimidating calling the non-emergency number for little things, but now you can quickly submit a thought, idea or a problem and it will be seen by our police department. Our city and our police department is here for us. This is them showing they want our feedback and they want to hear our concerns.”
Winter Garden resident Chloe Johnson first heard about the app at the commission meeting.
“This is another good tool for the community residents to use and to be a help by keeping their neighborhoods safe,” she said. “If you see something, you can now report it at the comfort of your phone by texting immediately, while remaining anonymous. It’s a great way of city officials and residents working together for a better and safer community.”
News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.